Director Pablo Larraín has once again created a stylish film that explores a famous female personality being weighed down by her sense of duty and having all aspects of her life being controlled.
Following on from his acclaimed film Jackie, which looked at the life of Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of her husband’s assasination, Director Pablo Larraín focuses what life could have been like for Princess Diana being part of the royal family in Spencer – a stylish film that captures feelings of isolation and tense atmosphere that shows the troubles of adjusting to royal life.
Written by Steven Knight, Spencer focuses on a specific three days over one Christmas at Sandringham and imagines what would have happened during this period of time. Through his script, it is incredible to see how much attention has been paid into really getting to the heart of Diana’s (Kristen Stewart)- emotions and to capture her inner turmoil as while on the surface she tries to behave the family expect her to but ends up having moments of ‘rebellion’. Throughout the entire film, the audience is given a strong sense of just how regimented and restricted royal life can be (although of course there is more fiction than actual fact to this film). It is deeply sad to see the impact that tradition has on a character who was quite clearly vulnerable in the first place – someone who couldn’t seem to do right when all she wanted was some freedom to breathe. This is particularly beautifully in the moment in which Diana tears open the curtains that had been sewn together to prevent the paparazzi from getting any pictures – it feels like almost a turning point in which she starts to reclaim parts of the personality that had been suppressed due to her duties.
What is also interesting is the way in which the film while featuring other members of the Royal Family, they are kept at a distance – except to reprimand Diana for her behaviour as Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) does in one memorable scene. It highlights that feeling of isolation and oppressive atmosphere that exists throughout the film, while seeing the amount of food being prepared at the beginning of the film is extravagant and ludicrous – adding a hint of disdain for what the Royal Family represents. Perhaps the only thing that slightly distracts from the rest of the film is Diana’s fixation on Anne Boleyn – yes while comparisons could be made it feels as though there is too much emphasis on it.
It should be applauded the high level of detail that has been given to every aspect of the film which under the direction of Pablo Larraín is extremely sharp. From Jonny Greenwood’s beautiful score that really enhances Diana’s feelings of anxiety and worry in the early scenes, to Jacqueline Durran’s sumptuous costume designs (even given their own moment to shine) that capture the characters well – every moment in Spencer is classy and elegant.
This is also reflected in the performances from the cast – led by a surprising and mature performance from Kristen Stewart who captures each aspect and contrast of Diana’s personality beautifully. Every little mannerism is so on point – you can really see the loneliness and despair shine through, but equally she is just so consistent in the way in which she delivers her personality – it is a truly remarkable performance. But she is well supported by those around her including Timothy Spall as the somewhat subtly controlling Equerry Major Gregory, Jack Farthing as the awkward and somewhat distant Charles and Sally Hawkins as Diana’s only confident Maggie.
Beautifully filmed and sensitively written, Spencer is a unique portrayal of the Royal Family and Princess Diana that sticks in the mind long after the film finishes.
By Emma Clarendon
Spencer is released in cinemas on the 5th November.